Friday, September 30

Fruity business

In an earlier post I wrote that I had pruned the raspberries and wineberry.

This week my attention was focused on some other fruits.

We have two beds more or less devoted to jostaberries and gooseberries (although they share a bed with some other fruits as well). These beds are two of the few which do not have a deployment of weed control fabric. This is mainly because we became wcf converts after the beds were planted and the bushes matured. To add fabric at this stage would have been difficult and messy. Much blood would have been shed too.

As it is I mainly keep weeds under control by hoeing and hand weeding taking care not to remove young self sown foxgloves and other desirable 'weeds'.
Beds tidied it was time to turn the secateurs on the gooseberries and jostaberries.

The pruning method that I use is basically the same for both plants although the jostaberry is larger and more vigorous and the gooseberry is extremely prickly.

The aim is to open up the centre of each bush by removing any stems growing in the centre of the plant or any 'branches' pointing inwards. Any weak or crossing stems are removed and remaining stems are thinned out to open up the plant and allow good air circulation. 
I also cut back any stems that are becoming too long and in danger of blocking pathways and in the case of the gooseberry inflicting unnecessary pain. The jostaberries are also cut back to prevent them becoming too tall. They are already as tall as me.
A jostaberry before
A jostaberry after
It is quite difficult to show the difference before and after pruning in photos, as the plants merge into others in the background, but believe me lots was removed. There are still some gooseberry plants scattered in other parts of the plot that still need attention but I didn't have time to deal with those too.
It was also time to plant out the rooted strawberry runners. The area given to the failed Vibrant strawberries were replanted with Malwina and any gaps left by other failed individuals were replanted in most cases by new plants of the same variety.
One of the uprooted Cambridge Favourite plants - discarded because it didn't fruit well last year - actually came apart to produce about a dozen separate plants. We also had more rooted runners than we needed. Of course you wouldn't expect me to throw these away would you? The gooseberries and jostaberry bushes now have some new bedmates,
I've also cut back any long, new growth coming out from to apple hedge. I'm never sure that I prune this correctly as my method is based on instinct. Correct or not it seems to work.

As well as the apple hedge we have five small trees. The tops of these 'dwarf' apple trees and any branches touching the ground were cut back although some additional shaping needs to be done later.

There are still more fruits to prune including a whitecurrant that I need to read up on and of course the tayberry is still waiting to get its thorns inro me!

Wednesday, September 28


Monday, September 26

Mystery apples

20 September
All our potatoes have been dug - this time from the overspill bed, the one where any leftover sub standard seed potatoes were planted. The few in the brown bowl are Vales Sovereign. This variety is off out 2017 list as the tubers are badly affected with blight. Even earlier stored potatoes are rotting whereas other varieties planted alongside them are fine. Martyn posted about this here. 

Last week we picked more apples - quite a lot of apples in fact - from the apple hedge that we inherited when we took the plot. Apple hedge is the name we have given to the overgrown cordons. 

We have no idea what the varieties of apples are although we are pretty sure that the apples picked last week are Discovery and maybe another two other varieties are a Golden Delicious and Laxton's Superb. Can anyone suggest the variety of the apples shown above. They are eating apples but we have so many that lots have been cooked and frozen, some with blackberries. We are still picking fruit from our Loch Ness thornless blackberry.
We also harvested some apples of the other unknown variety. These had fallen from the tree.

Again suggestions for the name of the variety would be welcome.

As well as the apple hedge we have five more small apple 'trees' on the plot one of which is an Egremont Russet. We tried a couple of fruits when we had a coffee break. Although very tasty they were not quite fully ripe. Note the knife, number one rule when eating fruit from the plot is never bite into a whole fruit!

The club root resistant, Clapton cauliflowers have started to produce curds. We harvested three last week.

23 September
We are still picking yellow raspberries but now there is a higher proportion of spoiled fruit on the canes.

The tomatoes above are from the plot greenhouse.

The one pear was picked from our small, Invincible pear tree. It wasn't ripe but I removed it as it was sitting on the soil. The trees branches are bowing under the weight of the remaining fruit.

I think the orange spots on this tree are pear tree rust which I will post about at a later date.

You may also notice a couple of potatoes on the 23 September collection - these are Casablancas that escaped the initial harvest.

You may remember that we used up our left over pea seeds making a late sowing in Mid July. We knew that the chances were that they wouldn't produce a crop but we have managed to pick a few pods. The plants have been affected by mildew.

The peas however, are just fine.

24 September
The tomatoes above are from the blight affected outdoor, plot plants. Although some fruit is spoiled we can still salvage some. 

We have also started to harvest our carrots which will hopefully last through winter.

25 September
I picked a few nuts from the Kent Cobnut. There may be more nuts in there but the bush is a bit dense and high to spot them.
We picked most of the ripe tomatoes from the garden greenhouse.

We have grown lots of the small sweet tomatoes this year. Most of the above were made into a tomato sauce which was frozen. This will make a base for pasta recipes etc.

I always forget to mention bits and pieces harvested from the garden as it is usually a case of pick and eat. I did remember to take a photos of a few spring onions and a sprig of parsley destined for an omelette.

Friday, September 23

Planting - ornamentals

This year instead of starting my biennial flowers - wallflowers, sweet Williams and sweet rocket in modules and transplanting I decided to go for direct sowing. This worked well for the wallflowers and sweet rocket but in the case of the sweet Williams either the germination was poor or - more likely - the slugs made a meal of freshly emerging seedlings. I bought more seeds and sowed these in modules which I planted out last week.

We had quite a poor showing of sweet Williams in spring this year and so I am hoping that the slugs don't move in and cause a repeat next year.

I felt that the tubs in which our alliums are planted needed some 'ground cover' and so planted some bellis perennis that we had raised from seed earlier.
Due to foraging molluscs the above was all that was left from a tray of seedlings. Let's hope the slugs and snails don't make a meal of the survivors before we can enjoy the flowers.

Last year I popped some primroses into a pot and after flowering they set seed and grew lots of baby plants. These were put aside over summer and had been attacked by leaf miner.
I decided to give the plants a chance anyway and planted them in another pot of alliums.
At the moment they look rather shabby but they may outgrow the miner damage.

We went to a local garden centre for lunch a week or so ago. This may be the last visit this year as already in September the indoor gardening stock is making way for 'festive' products. I refuse to use the 'C' word when autumn is only just moving in.
Whilst we were there we picked up a few heathers to brighten up our patio area over the winter months. I really only needed four plants but they had a 'buy two get one free offer' so I ended up with six. 

The extra two went in another pot  but 'Oh dear, just look at those gaps in the planting."

Not to worry I needed a visit to our local garden centre - one that happily still has the word garden at the centre of things with nothing festive in sight. There I picked up a couple of packets of miniature iris bulbs.

They filled those gaps nicely. I sprinkled a little gravel in the planting holes to aid drainage.

I also picked up a few packets of hardy annual seeds.

I've been experimenting with growing annuals this year - more on that later - as part of that I sowed some seeds a week or so ago to see whether I can have some early flowers. I picked up three packets of annual seeds and found a packet of larkspur which had been in the freezer since spring so I may be a tad optimistic in sowing but nothing ventured etc.

I planted four rows of seeds - one for each packet - in trenches cut in weed control fabric and they are already germinating - more slug fodder?

Left over seed was sprinkled under the pear trees where each year self sown candytuft pops up.

In fact when I scattered the seeds, I noticed some candytuft seedlings had already germinated. We have other self sown annual flowers popping up on the plot so if they can overwinter why not the ones that I sow?

Wednesday, September 21